HONG KONG — Chinese state media on Saturday reported the first known death from a new virus that has infected dozens of people across Asia.
The Xinhua news agency cited the health commission in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the illness first appeared, in reporting the death. The health commission said the patient, a 61-year-old man, died on Thursday night.
Forty-one people have been found to have the new virus, a coronavirus, and seven patients are still in severe condition, the health commission said, according to the Xinhua report. Two patients have been discharged, it said, and no new cases have been detected since Jan. 3.
There is no evidence that the virus can be spread between humans, according to the commission. The initial cases were linked to workers at a market that sold live fish, birds and other animals. More than 700 people who had close contact with patients were put under observation and no additional cases were found, the commission said.
Reports of the virus — a mysterious, pneumonialike illness — first appeared last month and have since aroused fears around the region, where memories of the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, which began in China and killed more than 800 people worldwide, still linger.
The new illness appeared weeks before the start of the Spring Festival, China’s biggest holiday, raising concerns about the potential for a more severe outbreak. In recent days, airports and train stations across the region have heightened scrutiny of people who have visited Wuhan, adding staff to check passengers’ temperatures.
The Chinese government has faced pressure to release more information about the virus. Memories of the government’s efforts to cover up the extent of the SARS epidemic in 2003 are still fresh, and some experts have argued that China should disclose more details about the outbreak, such as the transmission route, the incubation period and the ages and genders of the patients.
Chinese health officials have cautioned that more research is necessary to fully understand the new virus. The World Health Organization has praised Chinese health officials’ response to the latest outbreak.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that infect animals and people, and some cause only the symptoms associated with the common cold. Health officials in China have said that symptoms of the new illness include high fever, difficulty breathing and lung lesions.
Amy Qin reported from Hong Kong, and Javier C. Hernández from Guangzhou, China. Elsie Chen contributed research.